GADGET WATCH: BlackBerry Z30

Overshadowed by the recent turmoil over its ownership, BlackBerry released a new all-touch flagship smartphone called the Z30.

Despite all of the recent and well-documented uncertainty surrounding the company, it still manages to retain a loyal user base, particularly among business users.

If you’re among that loyal core of users, is it time to update to the latest BlackBerry? It’s time to find out.

Hardware and features

The Z30 features a 5-inch super AMOLED display, with a resolution of 1280 x 720 or 295 ppi. While that’s not quite as sharp as the Samsung Galaxy S4’s 1920 x 1080 screen, it is certainly respectable.

It measures 140.7 mm x 72 mm and its 9.4 mm thick, and weighs 170 grams.

The device is the first to run Blackberry 10.2, the latest version of the company’s QNX-based operating system, which includes a range of new features including the ability to run Android apps (albeit not through Google Play), the ability to check BBM messages from any app and prioritised notifications in the BlackBerry Hub.

The smartphone is built around a dual core 1.7 GHz Qualcomm MSM8960T Pro processor.

It includes 16 gigabytes of storage, 2 Gigabytes of RAM, an 8-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera.

It also boasts a large capacity, non-removable 2880 mAh battery, which BlackBerry claims has a battery life of 25 hours of mixed use or 18 hours of 3G talk time.

What’s the consensus?

In its review, the NextWeb has little hesitation recommending the device to the BlackBerry faithful:

The BlackBerry Z30, while a part of the same series and bearing some resemblance to its Z10 predecessor, instead features all curved edges where the Z10 had straight-edged sides. If I was going to describe how the phone feels in the hand in one word, I’d say ‘smooth’, the same goes for the the actual touch on the display too…

This is easily the best BlackBerry 10 device on the market, particularly if you’ve never been particularly taken with its physical keyboard. Nevertheless, answering the question of whether you should buy the BlackBerry Z30 is a tricky question. If you’re a BlackBerry fan and you’re buying for now and the immediate future, then the Z30 is a no-brainer if you want to stick with the Canadian brand. Its hardware design and software tweaks alone make it a worthwhile successor to the Z10 – and it’s one of only a few phones that carries a 5-inch display well.

If photography is your key deciding factor in the new phone, Engadget says the Z30 is not for you:

The 8-megapixel sensor that sits on the back of BlackBerry Z30’s shell should, in theory, do a quick and nimble job of taking high-quality snaps on the fly. On a clear day, pictures are bright, with vivid colours and lots of detail. Outside of those ideal conditions, however, our images started to look murky.

From a business productivity standpoint, Gizmodo is impressed with the new features in BlackBerry 10.2, including the Priority Hub:

Priority Hub seems to filter out keywords to create actionable “priorities” you should be looking at. People asking for the status of projects, time-sensitive content like “this will be up in an hour” or “the iPhone 5s releases on Friday” were flagged in my tests. If something you want in Priority Hub doesn’t magically appear, you can mark it as important for future updates which is great. Messages to myself are also surfaced in Priority Hub.

BlackBerry 10.2 packs some genuinely useful productivity features, and I want BlackBerry to survive just so I can see what they come up with next. Right now it’s hit after hit after hit. They just need to communicate that better.

Unfortunately, with BlackBerry product at the moment, there’s an elephant in the room. And it’s neither the hardware nor the operating system:

On the other hand, the Z30 still suffers from a limited number of apps. It also may need to be protected from BlackBerry itself, as the company tries to re-invent itself under leaders that seem headed toward putting more emphasis on BlackBerry management software and less on devices and device software.

Who’s it for?

At this point, BlackBerry’s recent struggles as a company are well documented, as is the relatively small number of apps available, when compared to iOS or Android.

That said – camera aside – by all indications BlackBerry has released a really strong, top-of-the-line smartphone with the Z30.

If you’re a loyal BlackBerry user looking to upgrade and you don’t mind not having a physical keyboard, the Z30 is certainly worth looking at.

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